A breastfeeding initiative has been launched in Tallaght to encourage women to breastfeed and to highlight the many benefits to the infant and mother’s health. The Tallaght Welcomes Breastfeeding initiative was launched recently by journalist and breastfeeding advocate Siobhan O’Connor who encouraged uptake from mothers – and for the community to back breastfeeding in public places. “We need to support women and empower them to have the confidence to breastfeed everywhere. I breastfeed just about everywhere from cafes, to buses, to park benches in summer time. The more breastfeeding is encouraged in public places, the more it will be considered the norm. “We need to teach all children in secondary school, male and female, about the benefits so that they have the facts and thereby normalise what is one of the most natural things we do as Mothers.” Ms. O’Connor attended the event together with her 14 week old daughter Éila who she is currently breastfeeding.

The initiative is being rolled out following figures released by the HSE earlier this year which showed a stark difference in rates across Dublin, with initial breastfeeding uptake rates reported at 84% in Dublin South East, 81% in Dublin South City, but lowest at 48% in Dublin South West, which incorporates the Tallaght area. As part of the drive community settings and organisations are being asked to display a Tallaght Welcomes Breastfeeding sticker to assure mums that they are very welcome to breastfeed in that location and can feel comfortable in doing so. The programme is led by the Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) as part of its Antenatal to Three Initiative (ATTI). It is supported by Public Health Nurses from Health Services Executive in Dublin South West, the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, Tallaght University Hospital, Early Years Services, the Local Arts Centre (Civic Theatre) and parents.

CDI Parenting Specialist Elaine Fagan said the health benefits of breastfeeding are very widely accepted: “It reduces the risk of babies getting colds, infections and disease and strengthens mother and baby bonding. Breastfeeding support is most effective when provided by both professionals and peers, with community peer support particularly helpful in changing attitudes and normalising breastfeeding.”  Nurses and Midwives seek opportunities to speak about benefits of breastfeeding. Tallaght Welcomes Breastfeeding will also involve public information events. The project is seeking opportunities to speak to partners, grandparents and in wider community settings such as schools, active retirement groups, sports clubs, women’s groups, youth groups and men’s sheds.

Coombe Hospital Midwife Megan Sheppard said: “We would particularly value opportunities to speak in secondary schools to young people who have not even thought about becoming parents, and for teachers to champion this programme. If their mothers have not breastfed, then young women are unlikely to be encouraged at home so we need to talk directly to them.”

For more information see www.twcdi.ie.